Their house is barely defined as a run down shack by North American and European standards; but, to those living there, it is home. Home where one feels safe, warm and the centre of family life. Behind the house is a hole in the ground, their economic means of living.
In rural Colombia, South of Medellin, lies the coal district. There are coal companies; but, much of the coal is mined by the impoverished, who, most often with their neighbours, dig a hole in the back yard and extract coal. Holes become deep mine shafts, dangerous because of the risk of collapse and coal dust that fills the lungs and bring early death.
Coal ( Carbon) is dug and piled beside the nearby house where a truck comes to pick it up and the miner(s) get paid small sums upon which their family(ies) live.
When walking the dirt road by one of these enterprises an elderly lady invited me into her home and out the back door to show me how they move the coal up from the mine to pile beside the house. I felt her warmth and pride and indicated my respect. They are good people, living the best that they can.
It was the weekend and, as is custom, a trip into town was in order for the locals. As I headed back to the city, I noticed that a nearby stream provided their bathwater and a place to clean up.
Yes, there are mining standards in Colombia which are mostly ignored by these people because they know no other life and the government has no alternative employment for them. And, so it seems will be for the foreseeable future.
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